Thursday teaser: Avengers of Blood

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This week’s mystery excerpt comes from the bestselling novel

By Gae-Lynn Woods

CASS WORKED STEADILY, PAUSING only to haul broken sections of cabinet to the backyard and toss them on a growing burn pile. The air conditioner had been off since she and Bruce started work early this morning, and the summer heat built as the day wore on, bringing a sticky humidity that caused the dust and grit from their demolition project to hang nearly motionless in the air. Cass stopped to wipe the sweat from her face and take a swig of cold water. It had taken the better part of the day to remove most of the wall and base cabinets from the kitchen, leaving only one cabinet squatting in the corner.

She had no complaint; sweat was her salvation. The physical work cleared her mind and her fears about the future wept out through her pores. She could forget about Mitch Stone and the pain she’d endured since that devastating night in the spring. Her dreams were still riddled with the image of his face as she’d seen it through the small window in the ICU door — pale, motionless, devoid of life. The phantom scent of a burning building caught her at the most improbable of times and alternate outcomes to that night played continuously through her mind. It had been over six weeks since she’d been suspended — the banishment, she called it — from the police department, and even though she’d found solace in hard labor and power tools, doubt over the outcome of the Firearm Discharge Board review had taken a toll.

Cass finished her water and slid the crowbar between the countertop and cabinet, jammed it home, and levered the top up. It sprang free with a shriek. Cass turned at a giggle to find a tiny ballerina watching.

“Hey, Auntie Cass.”

Cass put the crowbar inside the cabinet and smiled at her niece. Phoebe was swathed in pink, from her ballet slippers and seashell pale tights and tutu, to her fuchsia leotard. Cass wiped the dust from a seat at the scuffed kitchen table and lifted the five-year-old to the chair. “You look gorgeous. What are you up to?”

“Going to jazz class.”

“Why are you wearing your ballet outfit?”

“I’m a princess, Auntie Cass, and this is my gown.”

“Oh,” Cass said, as Harry entered, guilt on his face.

“Can you take her?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

Harry pulled gingerly on the refrigerator’s duct-taped handle. He removed a pitcher of orange juice and poured glasses for them. “Do you remember the Martins?”

“Of course.”

“We’re working for them and they’re not happy with what the interior designer is planning.” He glanced down at Phoebe, but the little girl was bobbing her head to an internal rhythm, oblivious to the fact that the interior designer was her mother.

“Why don’t they talk to her?”

“Drama.”

“Ah.” Harry and his estranged wife Carly shared an architectural and design business and were known for their innovation. Carly also had a well-deserved reputation as a diva, and the firm had lost several clients over her refusal to change her designs to suit the client’s wishes.

“I need to smooth things over and knock the designer off her high horse. Can you take Feebs to town?”

“Sure,” Cass said, glancing down at her filthy clothes. “When?”

“Class starts at seven-thirty.” Harry leaned down to kiss his daughter’s head. “I’ll pick her up. Thanks, Cass.”

She looked at the dusty kitchen clock as the screen door slammed shut. An hour and a half to go. “Okay Feebs, what’s next?”

“Supper.”

“Right.” Cass ran a finger along the stove top and looked at the grit it gathered. “I’m not cooking tonight.”

“Uncle Bruce always cooks.”

“Good point. How about a burger from Chubby’s?”

“And a chocolate shake?”

Cass considered the fallout that would arise from the inevitable spatter on Phoebe’s pink ballet outfit, and decided that Carly’s wrath was well worth the price of retaining favorite aunt status. Even if it cost Cass a new leotard and tutu. “It’s not Chubby’s without a shake.” She touched her tangled hair. “I need a shower. Want to come upstairs and watch TV while I get ready?”

The little girl nodded and pulled a sparkling tiara from behind her back. “Mommy won’t let me wear it outside ’cause I might lose it. But it’s okay if I’m with you, right Auntie Cass?”

Cass recognized the crown Carly had received when she was named Fire Ant Queen years ago. It was a tacky thing made of paste jewels that formed hearts and something meant to resemble a fire ant. Her heart warmed at Phoebe’s transcendent grin as she settled the shiny crescent on her niece’s head, and she wondered only briefly how much a new tiara would cost.

About Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

Meet the author

mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Goober: One of My Favorite Secondary Characters

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

Roseohioresident (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Secondary characters. Rarely do we talk about them, but they’re an important part of the seasoning that livens up any story. Asking me to choose which character I love most is a bit like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. So I’ll just say that for this moment, a sweet secondary character named Goober is my favorite.

He made his debut in The Devil of Light, the first Cass Elliot Crime Novel, and has appeared in each book since. In The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood, Goober ended up playing important roles by stumbling across dead bodies (in one case a body so very freshly dead that Goober thought it was still moving, zombie-style). In A Case of Sour Grapes, he’s spared from finding bodies and plays a true secondary role, adding color and texture to the story.

Goober’s character is based very loosely on a real-life character who lived in our neck of the East Texas woods. The little town nearest to my grandparents was home to a woman with mild mental challenges who rode a lawn mower as a means of transportation. Although I vividly remember seeing her scooting around town on her red mower, I never learned her name or anything about her past. But her image, and the freedom she found on that mower, never left me.

A Case of Sour Grapes - mystery by Gae-Lynn Woods

As do all my characters, Goober appeared in a story at the exact moment he was needed. He wasn’t fully formed, but a general sketch of who he was – based on the woman from my childhood – arrived with him. In The Devil of Light, we learned that he was abandoned on Forney County’s courthouse lawn when he was a toddler, and was adopted by an elderly widow. Although Goober was a little slow when it came to formal education, he is a talented gardener and handyman, but the intricacies of maintaining his red riding mower escape him. In Avengers of Blood, we find out he possesses a wisdom about people and their capabilities belied by his gentle nature.

I love Goober because there is absolutely no guile about him. My other characters live life on multiple levels, as we all do, but Goober is one of those rare ‘what you see is what you get’ people. He continues to grow through the stories and we’ll learn more about who Goober is, but I don’t think he’ll lose that simple sweetness that makes him so unique.

I do kind of hope he’ll stop finding bodies because it’s a tad traumatic for a soul as gentle as Goober, but on the other hand, he is prone to stumble into the most unusual situations…

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fences, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

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The Curious Incident of the Deer in the Nighttime

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Memorable musings

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Do personal memories ever find their way into my writing? Indeed they do. It’s a hazard of the job, cataloging every noteworthy occurrence and trying to find a home for it in a novel. (If you’re a friend or relative of a writer, rest assured, your personal life is constantly under scrutiny for future use.) In fairness, everyone defines “noteworthy” in different ways.

But take a gander at the following elements of an actual event, and tell me if you don’t also find them noteworthy:

  • a hand-me-down 1977 burnt orange Chevy Vega
  • two sixteen year old boys who share the privilege of squeezing behind the wheel of the Vega, and
  • one deer with a very bad sense of timing.
1977 Chevy Vega
1977 Chevy Vega

Maybe not so exciting when taken on their own, but when you combine them on a lonely country road after dark, things get a little more interesting.

The boys are my twin brothers, who at 6′ 4″ barely fit into that Vega. Even with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back, their knees still cradled the steering wheel. They were coming home from basketball practice one evening, minding their own business, when a deer dashed out of the brush and smacked into the side of the car. The poor thing hit the car hard enough to knock itself out and leave a dent in a fender. My brothers, good Samaritans and smart enough to know that there was no way our mom would believe that they weren’t responsible for denting the car, hoisted the unconscious deer into the Vega’s hatch area, and then one of my 6′ 4″ brothers folded himself in half, climbed into the tiny hatch area with the deer, and held its feet just in case it woke up on the drive home.

Alas, Mom did not believe them despite the presence of an unconscious deer in her car and reassurance from her husband and her Sheriff’s deputy brother that yes indeed, deer do occasionally get the timing wrong and run into a car instead of in front of it. My brothers suffered mightily for the damage that deer did to the poor little Vega.

Until, that is, the same thing happened to my mom in her big ol’ honkin’ brown Oldsmobile.

Same road. Same time of day. Same spot on the fender. Different deer, one hopes.

Mom did not bring the deer home as proof of how the big ol’ Olds got dented, but she forgave my brothers. Grudgingly.

Did I use all this in a story? Oh yes. In The Devil of Light, after my fictitious Grove twins hit the deer, they got distracted by a glow off in the forest and go to investigate. That leads them to a fire pit where a human foot has just been burned. Toward the end of the book, their mother gets hit by a deer (on a different road), and ends up being held captive by a cult.

I’m not sure it’s possible to keep our memories and our writing separate. And I think that’s a good thing. A touch of reality adds flavor and more often than not a little hilarity. Who couldn’t do with more of that?

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fences, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

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Romance teaser: Kado notices Cass

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This week’s Teaser for Romance Month on BestSelling Reads features a sparking, smoking scene from

The Devil of Light

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Tom Kado drank in Detective Cass Elliot’s fluid movements as she wove between the desks to get to the squad room’s door, and wondered what was wrong with him. He crossed the empty room to the coffee bar and poured himself a cup.

She was gorgeous. Stunning, actually. And a bright intelligence brought light to those strangely colored eyes. They were such a deep blue they looked purple. When Cass had stood from her desk, he’d realized that they were almost the same height.

Kado shook his head and scolded himself as he strode toward the evidence room. God knew he was in no shape to handle a relationship and in reality, he didn’t even want one. Caroline had only been dead a year. Barely a year. Kado’s nostrils still flared at the phantom scent of death that had oozed from her pores as cancer had eaten her alive. He still saw her in crowds and had to stop himself from calling out to her, had to endure the rush of hope every time he spotted a petite woman with shiny, straight black hair. She was slowly leaving him, occupying his dreams less frequently these days. But he couldn’t stand the thought of losing her completely, of not loving her. Of violating her memory by noticing other women.

Unlocking the evidence room door, Kado tried to push Cass from his mind. Cass Elliot is a colleague, somebody you work with, pure and simple, he told himself as he settled behind his computer and typed in a password. Besides, a woman with those looks probably has men waiting in line. She’s out of your league and, he reminded himself, you’re not in the game anyway.

About The Devil of Light

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Meet the author

mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Monday musings: Readers provide awesome inspiration

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

Writers find inspiration everywhere, and often, readers inspire us the most. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several book signings and writer talks, and have even hosted a book launch party at a local winery. Every event and every reader has been a blast.

Most readers ask similar questions – where story ideas come from, whether my character Cass Elliot is named after the famous singer, or how long it takes to write a book. Some share story ideas – like the time a urologist was literally pulled out of bed to perform kidney surgery on a mafia boss while gowned armed guards stood watch in the operating room.

Occasionally someone comes to an event with a gleam in their eye and a detailed list of questions:

How could you end THE DEVIL OF LIGHT without bringing the old man to justice? I want him dead. Or at least in prison. (All I can say is, I’m writing a series. I know, I know. THE DEVIL OF LIGHT leaves the reader hanging, and maybe I could’ve ended that book better. All I know for sure is that the old man isn’t done with Forney County, and Cass isn’t done with him.)

Please don’t let anything bad happen to Hitch. I know he’s a horrible multiple murderer, but I kind of like him. (I kind of like him, too. Which worries me a bit. I’d like for him to hang around Forney County for a while, but we’ll see where the stories go.)

I really loved your writing style in A CASE OF SOUR GRAPES, but I don’t like Maxine. She’s too into her handbags and shoes. Couldn’t you write like that but use Cass as your main character? (It wouldn’t work. Maxine and her foibles are as key to the plot as is the search for the missing husband. Cass is too intense to bring that same level of impulsiveness and misadventure to a story.)

But my favorite reader interaction to date occurred at church, which is a little weird given that I write crime novels with a certain level of violence. A lady with the sweetest disposition pulled me aside one Sunday and said, “I thought about you yesterday.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes. My son killed two deer and was processing them, getting ready to put them in the freezer. While I watched, I realized how hard it must be to actually dismember a human body.” Slight frown. “Or at least to do a neat job. It’s not easy to take a leg off at the hip without making a mess. It’s got to be even harder to saw through bone like Hitch did. What do you think?”

We spent the next several minutes, this gentle lady and I, discussing how one would go about cutting up a human body. Where would you do it? What about evidence? What do you do with all the parts? Dig a hole? Use a wood chipper? Where does one find a wood chipper in a rush? How much bleach would it take to clean up?

The fact that we were in the church foyer with congregants streaming around us didn’t bother either of us in the least.

“Well,” she said, patting my arm. “I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you.” And off she went to refill the coffee urn, leaving me to wonder if she would ever have thought about dismembering a human body before reading my books.

I certainly hope so.

I can’t afford that kind of therapy for my readers.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog 

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Mystery Thursday: A Case of Sour Grapes

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Win a copy of this week’s mystery and Cass Elliot companion novel

A Case of Sour Grapes - mystery by Gae-Lynn WoodsBy Gae-Lynn Woods

THE SEEDIER SIDE OF LIFE

BEING WOMEN OF SOUND mind, Cass and I did what any solid sleuths would do before diving into the skank that is Whiskey Bend: we cruised the strip checking for Bret Ivey’s Corvette. I’ve driven this stretch of road just over the state line and into Louisiana numerous times. It’s the kind of crammed together place that always makes me slow down and check for drivers who can’t stay between the lines. During the day, it’s dirty and downright sad. At night, however, it sparkles with twinkling neon signs that distract from the grime and despair.

We drove the half mile stretch of Whiskey Bend at a sedate pace, glancing in the crowded parking lots as we went, searching for a bright yellow Corvette with the license plate WINE-O. We didn’t see it, so we agreed to take a closer look at the seedier side of life.

Have you ever been in a bar for bikers? This was my first time, and despite my show of bravado with Cass, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Dim lights, sticky floors, inebriated rednecks, scantily clad women with vacant stares. You, too? Well, The Golden O was a surprise. I’d talked it over with Cass, and we decided to work methodically down one side of Whiskey Bend to the last bar, then turn around and work our way along the other side.

Back to The Golden O. It wasn’t the kind of place you’d take your mother, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The parking lot was packed with motorcycles and muscle cars. A flashing neon sign featured the outline of a curvy blonde, lips pursed in a sexy ‘O’. A bouncer greeted us with a glance up and down, then motioned us inside. I discreetly flipped on my hidden camera. The lights were low, but the floor wasn’t sticky. The foyer had a diner-like counter along one wall, fronting a grill where a big man flipped burgers and steaks for five guys perched on chrome stools. The food smelled surprisingly good. Music flowed from deeper inside the establishment and we stepped through a velvet curtain into a wide room with a stage at its center. A busty blonde with mounds of frothy curls who could’ve been the model for the neon sign stalked along a runway. She was wearing a beautiful black mask and a full-length gown exposing a strip of magnificent cleavage. She peeled off long gloves, one finger at a time, bumping and grinding all the while. The bikers alongside the stage were utterly entranced.

Cass watched the men as they watched the woman. “What gives, Maxine? I thought the whole reason men came to these places was for the skin.”

“It’s burlesque,” I answered quietly. “It’s as much about the tease as the nudity.” The stripper unrolled a glove and draped it across one patron’s shoulder before whipping it away and slapping him in the face with it. A charged growl went up from the crowd.

“How do you know that?” Cass asked.

“My ex-husband Neil took me to see burlesque shows.”

“That didn’t bother you?”

“Not until I realized they were men in drag.”

Cass cocked an eyebrow.

I focused on the faces around the stage. “It was the beginning of the end for us. If they’d been women, maybe I could’ve coped.”

I felt her gaze and wondered if she would ask more. My best friend and I lost contact while I was married, and other than having been maid of honor in my wedding, she knew very little about my married life. In true Cass style, she knew when to hold her questions. She turned back to the men. “I don’t see Bret, do you?”

The dancer tossed her second glove our way and a scrum erupted over the strip of cloth. Amid the chaos, I caught the stripper’s glare. I recognized the smoky green eyes behind the mask and blood drained from my face.

“Oh no,” I whispered to Cass. “We’re so busted.”

“Why?”

“The woman on stage? The dancer?”

Cass glanced up. “What about her?”

“That’s Aunt Babby.”

What is the mystery about A Case of Sour Grapes?

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong?

Meet Maxine Leverman, lover of expensive shoes, beautiful handbags, and her lingerie wearing ex-husband’s hush money. When she pleads her way into a job at family run Lost and Found Investigations, Maxine’s only goal is to gain the concealed carry license and PI skills she needs to find the man who attacked her, and then kill him. (Or maybe just put him in jail, that decision can wait.)

But when she secretly takes a missing husband case on her first day at the agency, she stumbles into a high-stakes game of blackmail and murder. Maxine must unravel the links between a forgotten folk punk band, an international drug cartel, and the tangled history of the missing husband to keep the women in his life alive.

Fans of the early Stephanie Plum novels and Stuart Woods’ Holly Barker series will love Maxine’s tenacity, grit, and lust for life.

Find this bestselling mystery on Amazon in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense and Private Investigators categories.

Win a free e-copy of this compelling mystery

The author will give away a free e-copy to anyone who correctly answers this question:

What’s the name of the most famous cabaret in Paris?”

This you know the answer? Leave it in the Comments.

Meet the author

mystery author Gae-Lynn WoodsGae-Lynn Woods is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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